Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning Modes - Some formulas

Once you start getting the idea of modes, one of the easiest ways to deal with them is knowing how they are spelled relative to their ionian version. We can Use the key of C as a great example.

C Ionian C D E F G A B C Major
C Dorian C D Eb F G A Bb Bb Major
C Phrygian C Db Eb F G Ab Bb Ab Major
C Lydian C D E F# G A B G Major
C Mixolydian C D E F G A Bb F Major
C Aeolian C D Eb F G Ab Bb Eb Major
C Locrian C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Db Major

Since C Ionian has no altered notes, we can use that as a very nice baseline

Ionian - No Changes
Dorian - b3 b7
Phrygian - b2, b3, b6, b7
Lydian - #4
Mixolydian - b7
Aeolian - b3, b6, b7
Locrian - b2, b3, b5, b6, b7

So if we simply apply this formula to a major/ionian scale, we transform it into that mode.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning Modes - Extending the Chords

Now that we have a list of the triads that are diatonic to the modes of our key, we can extend them to include the diatonic 7th chords of the modes. We now have an even wider canvas to paint with. You may just thing that this is just slapping 7ths on each chord type. For Diminished and Minor, it pretty much is. But for the major 7ths you have to be careful. Because 2 will be major 7th and 1 will be dominant 7th.

I Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
Imaj7 Ionian,Lydian
I7 Mixolydian
i Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
imin7 Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
i° Locrian
i°7 Locrian
II Lydian
II7 Lydian
ii Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
iimin7 Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
ii° Aeolian ii°7 Aeolian
bII Phrygian,Locrian
bIImaj7 Phrygian,Locrian
iii Ionian,Lydian
iiimin7 Ionian,Lydian
iii° Mixolydian
iii°7 Mixolydian
bIII Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
bIIImaj7 Dorian,Aeolian
bIII7 Phrygian
biii Locrian
biiimin7 Locrian
IV Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
IVmaj7 Ionian,Mixolydian
IV7 Dorian
iv Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
ivmin7 Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
#iv° Lydian
#iv°7 Lydian
V Ionian,Lydian
Vmaj7 Lydian
V7 Ionian
v Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
vmin7 Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
v° Phrygian
v°7 Phrygian
bV Locrian
bVmaj7 Locrian
vi Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi min7 Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi° Dorian
vi°7 Dorian
bVI Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
bVImaj7 Phrygian,Aeolian
bVI7 Locrian
vii° Ionian
vii°7 Ionian
vii Lydian
vii min7 Lydian
bVII Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
bVII maj7 Dorian,Mixolydian
bVII7 Aeolian
bvii Phrygian,Locrian
bvii min7 Phrygian,Locrian

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning Modes - Another Step

In my last post, we looked at a very simple chord progression with a couple of chords. Most likely you will be playing music that is much more complicated. So what happens when a Cm shows up in your song in G major? There is a note in that chord that is not in your key! Well there are a couple things you can do here.
  • Do not play an E during this chord
  • Switch to C Minor
  • Find some other mode that works
Well option 1 is simple enough, but we want to spice things up a little. Option 2 and 3 actually go together. If we look closely at C minor, we find that it is 3 flats. Bb,Eb,Ab. Now by looking at the key signature, we see that the relative Major to C minor is Eb Major. If we look at the relative Majors to modes of G, we have G-F-Eb-D-C-Bb-Ab. So Eb Major == 3rd mode of G, which is G Phrygian. To see what other modes of G we could play over this Cm chord, we simply need to see which of the modes of G contain a Cm chord. Well since Cm is C-Eb-G we can see that Eb Major, Bb Major and Ab Major have Eb's in them (as well as C's and G's). So our options for playing over a Cm in G are
  • G Phrygian (Eb Major)
  • G Aeolian/minor (Bb Major)
  • G Locrian (Ab Major)
Get ready for a little bit of information overload. If we take the notes of the modes of G

G Ionian     G A  B  C  D  E  F#  G Major
G Dorian G A Bb C D E F F Major
G Phrygian G Ab Bb C D Eb F Eb Major
G Lydian G A B C# D E F# D Major
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F C Major
G Aeolian G A Bb C D Eb F Bb Major
G Locrian G Ab Bb C Db Eb F Ab Major

and then figure out what all the triads are
Ionian         G  Am Bm  C   D  Em F#°
Dorian Gm Am Bb C Dm E° F
Phrygian Gm Ab Bb Cm D° Eb Fm
Lydian G A Bm C#° D Em F#m
Mixolydian G Am B° C Dm Em F
Aeolian Gm A° Bb Cm Dm Eb F
Locrian G° Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm

we can make a list of the modes that contain each chord

G Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
Gm Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
G° Locrian
A Lydian
Am Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Ab Phrygian,Locrian
A° Aeolian
Bm Ionian,Lydian
B° Mixolydian
Bb Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
Bbm Locrian
C Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Cm Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
C#° Lydian
D Ionian,Lydian
Dm Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
D° Phrygian
Db Locrian
Em Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
E° Dorian
Eb Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
F#° Ionian
F#m Lydian
F Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
Fm Phrygian,Locrian

Then we can generalize them into a more portable method using chord numbers
I     Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
i Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
i° Locrian
II Lydian
ii Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
ii° Aeolian
bII Phrygian,Locrian
iii Ionian,Lydian
iii° Mixolydian
bIII Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
biii Locrian
IV Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
iv Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
#iv° Lydian
V Ionian,Lydian
v Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
v° Phrygian
bV Locrian
vi Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi° Dorian
bVI Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
vii° Ionian
vii Lydian
bVII Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
bvii Phrygian,Locrian

Now if we use this chart we can easily get our list of available modes for many chords that may be in our tune. If we run across an Ab major chord in our key of G tune (which would be a bII), we see that G phrygian (Eb Major) or G Locrian (Ab Major) might work well. Which would make sense since playing Ab major over an Ab Major chord would make sense.

Does this mumbo jumbo make sense? Have I made a chordal miscalculation? Sound off in the comments.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Learning Modes - Putting Something Together

Now that we can find a major scale that is equivalent to a mode we need to be able to know how to choose which modes to play. Here is one method that can yield some good results. For starters lets look at a very simple chord progression in the key of G:

|: G | C | G | D7 :|

We need to determine what modes work with which chords. To do this of course, we need to be able to spell our chords. First take G Major which is made up of G-B-D. Lets find which modes retain these 3 notes.

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - This works
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - Nope it has a Bb
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - Nope Bb and Eb
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

So from this we see that G Ionian (major),G Lydian and G Mixolydian will work for a G Major chord.

Next we look at C Major which is made of C-E-G

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - No
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

C major works with G Major, G Dorian and G Mixolydian

and Finally D7 which is D-F#-A-C

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - No
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - No
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - No
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

So we will stick with G Major for the D7

When we map this out

|:GCGD7 :|
G Major
G Lydian (D Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major
G Dorian (F Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major
G Lydian (D Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major

So we have several options here we can play major all the way or use any combination we choose. When we use G Lydian we have a #4 note added and when we play G Mixolydian we have a b7 note.

We could of course look at the scales under the C chord in terms of C if you really wanted to, You would find that G Dorian = C Mixolydian,G Major = C Lydian and we already saw that G Mixolydian = C Major, but these are all enharmonic and so dealing with them all as modes of G can make it easier for some.

So here is an mp3 (inside the zip file) of these 3 chords that you can put on repeat on your computer and try jamming over these chords using these modes. I threw this together at 1:30am, so it probably won't sound very good. Anyway check it out and good luck!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Learning Modes - Finding the Relative Major

In my last article on modes we discussed how you can find a given mode by playing a major scale at a given interval from the original note.

First take a look at this slightly confusing table.

ModeTonalitySteps Down1/2 Steps DownInterval Down1/2 Steps UpInterval Up
Ionian (Major)Major
DorianMinorW2Major 2nd10Minor 7th
PhrygianMinorWW4Major 3rd8Minor 6th
LydianMajorWWH5Perfect 4th7Perfect 5th
MixolydianMajor / DomWWHW7Perfect 5th5Perfect 4th
Aeolian (Minor)MinorWWHWW9Major 6th3Minor 3rd
LocrianDiminishedWWHWWW11Major 7th1Minor 2nd

If you look at this chart you will get a quick reference to where you will find the scale you are needing.

Lets take a example:

Say we are playing a G major chord, we have 3 mode options that might sound good with it. Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian since they are the 3 "major" tonality modes (that is the 3rd is a major 3rd in the mode). So how do we get to G Ionian, G Lydian and G Mixolydian? I always have an easier time going up an interval rather than down so in the chart above, I have converted the intervals down from the WWHWWWH pattern we talked about in the previous article to ascending intervals.
  • G Ionian = G Major, since Ionian = Major
  • G Lydian is the major scale starting a perfect 5th above the scale in question. So a perfect 5th above G is D. So G Lydian = D Major
  • G Mixolydian is the major scale starting a Perfect 4th above the note in question which is C, so G Mixolydian = C Major.
How about minor? If we are playing an F minor chord and want F dorian, F Phrygian or F Aeolian, then we find
  • A minor 7th above F is Eb. Eb Major is F dorian
  • A minor 6th above F is Db.Db Major is F Phrygian
  • A minor 3rd above F is Ab. Ab Major is F Aeolian
Now something you may have noticed is that if we are playing F minor, why don't we play an F minor scale? We actaully do!. When we play Ab major as F aeolian, we are playing F minor. Since Aeolian is the same as natural minor.

So now we can grab a mode from a given chord.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Learning Modes - The Relative Major Way

Ok so I did not invent this, but I did come up with it out of my own studies (as my college theory prof told me...the hard way). But I like many others learned early on 3 things about modes
  1. The seven modes were just "starting" on the 7 notes of the scale. So If you were playing a C major scale and went from D to D it was D dorian, E to E was E Phrygian, etc.
  2. Modes could sound really cool.
  3. Modes were hard to apply in real life.
So I have had an idea to make a play-along CD/MP3 set for my guitar students where they would get simple to progressively more intricate chord progressions to try to improvise over and give them advice on trying different modes with them. The problem was trying to find a quick way to determine what mode went with what scale.  I did not want C major, D Dorian, E Phrygian, etc. I wanted C Major, C Dorian, C Phrygian, etc. So what was a quick way to find this. Well, I started by writing them out.

C PhrygianCDbEbFGAbBb
C MixolydianCDEFGABb
C AeolianCDEbFGAbBb
C LocrianCDbEbFGbAbBb

Then of course since modes were just scales starting on different notes of a certain key then each of these should be enharmonic to a major scale. So I wrote those out

C Major (Ionian)C Major
C DorianBb Major
C PhrygianAb Major
C LydianG Major
C MixolydianF Major
C AeolianEb Major
C LocrianDb Major

Well that was all helpful and all but I wanted a pattern to follow. How could this list of keys be related? Well Somehow I noticed a pattern

Bb is a whole step below C, Ab is a whole step below Bb and G is a halfstep below Ab. Whole, Whole Half. Well if you are familiar with how a major scale is built, it Goes

Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half 

in the forward direction (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C)

When you look at the relative major keys that make up the modes of a given key. They use the same pattern going backwards.


So if you are in C and want to play C Lydian, since lydian is the 4th mode. You can go down Whole (to dorian), Whole (to Phrygian) , Half (to Lydian) which is the Key of G Major. So if you play G Major over a C major that is C Lydian. Which works since Lydian is the same as a raised 4th. F is the 4th note of the C scale and in the key of G it is sharped.

Now should you ignore how to spell your modes without this method? Certainly not! but this can give you a "cheat sheet" way of getting into a given mode.

Next time we will talk about applying this to the guitar.